Mobile phones continue to push health innovation in Africa, Asia

As we often like to report, much of the innovation in mobile healthcare is coming from overseas, and not just from the usual high-tech suspects, but also from countries considered part of the developing world. iHealthBeat recently took a look at this issue, focusing on a $100 million initiative led by the Rockefeller Foundation to promote mobile technology and other health IT as a way of building healthcare capacity, improving access and boosting care quality and efficiency in Africa and Asia.

Karl Brown, associate director of applied technology at the New York-based foundation, calls cell phones and other simple mobile technologies "sort of the front lines of e-health," since they help caregivers serve areas without much in the way of healthcare facilities or infrastructure. "The mobile phone is much more suited to a lot of these environments in some cases than a computer or a laptop or an Internet connection because it doesn't use a lot of power," Brown says.

Cell phones can and do function even where electricity is scarce, thanks to long battery life and the availability of solar chargers, and they are fairly ubiquitous, even in very poor communities. The United Nations Foundation says that four-fifths of world's population lives in an area with mobile phone coverage, and about 64 percent of all mobile phone users are in developing countries.

The AED-Satellife Center for Health Information and Technology, a Watertown, MA-based organization that is participating in the Rockefeller Foundation's effort, helps people in developing countries adopt mobile data transmission technologies. AED-Satellife has created a system to convert clinical documents into mobile phone-compatible, giving health professionals easy access to up-to-date medical information. "The idea was to put it on a device that was small enough so that they could carry it around with them during their working day," explains Andrew Sideman, the center's associate director.

AED-Satellife also is helping to build health information exchanges in Mozambique and Uganda.

For more details:
- check out the iHealthBeat piece